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Ole Miss lands historic recruiting class

BBVA Compass Bowl Football AP

(Below is Ole Miss’ press release on the players added as part of its 2013 recruiting class.)

OXFORD, Miss. – A flurry of excitement surrounded Ole Miss’ Indoor Practice Facility on Wednesday morning as National Letters of Intent from several of the nation’s top high school prospects flooded in.

Ole Miss became the talk of college football for what Hugh Freeze and his staff were able to accomplish on National Signing Day, luring in a consensus top-10 signing class in just their second year at the helm.

The major recruiting services class rankings currently list Ole Miss at No. 2 (247Sports), No. 5 (ESPN), No. 6 (MaxPreps), No. 7 (Rivals) and No. 9 (Scout).

Eleven high school All-Americans, including the nation’s top overall prospect in Robert Nkemdiche (Loganville, Ga.), chose to sign on with Freeze and the Rebels in a historic day for the football program.

“I think today has the possibility of being a program changer,” Freeze said. “Obviously, it’s all on paper right now. We’ll start having to manage expectations now. We’ll still be in the second year of our journey together, but I do think we took a huge step forward today on that journey toward being where we all want to be, and that’s competing for an SEC West championship. We’re thrilled with today.”

The Rebels didn’t just have the college football world abuzz. At one point Wednesday morning, Ole Miss was trending worldwide on Twitter, and it was reported that the Rebels were even the hot topic in the Miami Heat locker room. LeBron James had this to say on his Twitter account: “Ole Miss ain’t messing around today! Big time recruits coming in. SEC is crazy.”

In addition to Nkemdiche, who is the nation’s No. 1 defensive end, Ole Miss reeled in the country’s No. 1 offensive tackle in Laremy Tunsil (Lake City, Fla.), the No. 1 wide receiver in Laquon Treadwell (Crete, Ill.) and the No. 2 safety in Tony Conner (Batesville, Miss.). That quartet highlights a class that includes 16 players rated 4 stars or better by the various recruiting services.

“Our staff – I think we have some of the rising stars in this profession in the way they went about recruiting and building relationships over the course of a year and executing our 12-month plan,” Freeze said. “I thought they were pretty flawless in that in most regards. Also, our players – I can’t give them enough credit. They sold our program.”

The Rebels pulled in prospects from eight states, including Mississippi (eight), Georgia (six), Tennessee (four), Alabama (three), Texas (three), Florida (two), Illinois (one) and Louisiana (one).

By position, the Rebels welcome to the program a balanced class of four offensive linemen, four running backs, three defensive backs, three defensive linemen, three wide receivers, three tight ends, three athletes, two quarterbacks, two linebackers and a kicker.

Nkemdiche will join his older brother, sophomore linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche, on the Rebel roster. Denzel earned All-SEC honors as a redshirt-freshman in 2012 while leading Ole Miss to a turnaround 7-6 season and a victory in the BBVA Compass Bowl. The Rebels were just 2-10 and 0-8 in SEC play in 2011 before Freeze’s arrival.

Tunsil is regarded as the third-best overall prospect in the country by 247Sports.com, Treadwell is rated the nation’s fifth-best player by Rivals.com, and Conner is ranked 24th by MaxPreps and ESPN.com. Other signees among the nation’s top 150 include OL Austin Golson (Prattville, Ala.), RB Kailo Moore (Rosedale, Miss.) and RB Mark Dodson (Memphis, Tenn.).

The Ole Miss class is littered with All-Americans. In addition to all of the previously mentioned players, Ole Miss welcomes SuperPrep All-Americans QB Ryan Buchanan (Jackson, Miss.) and RB Jordan Wilkins (Cordova, Tenn.), Semper Fidelis All-Americans TE A.J. Jackson (Hampton, Ga.) and CB David Kamara (Loganville, Ga.) and MaxPreps All-American K Andy Pappanastos (Montgomery, Ala.).

Freeze was eager to point out the depth of the class, not just the headliners.

“One of the strengths of our class is those 4-star and high 3-stars that we’ve got,” Freeze said.

One such player he singled out was 3-star WR Derrick Jones (Eupora, Miss.).

“Derrick Jones may be one of the hidden gems of this class,” Freeze said. “The guy’s a phenomenal athlete. I’ve seen him play basketball. He plays above the rim. I think he can play a lot of places for us from safety to receiver.”

Freeze also mentioned others like TE Evan Engram (Powder Springs, Ga.) and in-state offensive linemen Davion Johnson (Byhalia) and Daronte Bouldin (Canton) that could surprise people despite not being the most highly ranked prospects in the class.

The Rebels received 22 high school signatures on Wednesday to go with three junior college players and three high schoolers that had already signed. One of those junior college recruits, DT Lavon Hooks (Atlanta, Ga.), is rated by 247Sports.com as the top overall JUCO prospect in the country. Ole Miss also welcomed back ATH Nick Brassell (Batesville, Miss.), who was a starter on both sides of the ball as a freshman before attending East Mississippi Community College this past fall.

(Writer’s note: below the jump are the complete bios of all 28 members of Ole Miss’ 2013 recruiting class.)

Quincy Adeboyejo

WR | 6-3 | 180 | Cedar Hill HS | Cedar Hill, Texas

HIGH SCHOOL: Rated a 4-star recruit, the No. 42 wide receiver in the nation and the No. 43 recruit in Texas by Rivals.com … Rated a 3-star recruit by Scout.com, 247Sports.com and ESPN.com … A member of USA Football’s Under-19 national team that competed at the 2013 International Bowl … Associated Press All-State honorable mention selection after recording 91 catches for 1,265 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior … Led Cedar Hill to the Texas Class 5A Division 2 state title game … Dallas All-Area second team pick by the Dallas Morning News … Coached in high school by Joey McGuire.

Trey Bledsoe

ATH | 6-2 | 190 | Grenada HS | Grenada, Miss.

HIGH SCHOOL: Rated a 3-star recruit by Rivals.com and ESPN.com … Tabbed the No. 13 recruit in Mississippi and the No. 116 athlete in the nation by ESPN.com … Listed as the No. 16 recruit in Mississippi by Scout.com … Named a top 40 recruit in the state by The Clarion-Ledger … Selected to play in the Bernard Blackwell All-Star Game … Played in just seven games as a senior due to a broken collarbone, but caught 35 passes for 477 yards and five touchdowns … As a junior, totaled 27 receptions for 440 yards with six touchdowns on offense and 30 tackles with three interceptions on defense … Also played basketball … Coached in high school by Lamar Pitcock.

Daronte Bouldin

OL | 6-6 | 310 | Canton HS | Canton, Miss.

HIGH SCHOOL: Listed as a 3-star recruit and the No. 72 offensive tackle in the country by ESPN.com … Scout.com rated him as the 49th-best offensive tackle in the nation and the No. 6 overall prospect in Mississippi … Second team All-State pick by The Clarion-Ledger and the Mississippi Association of Coaches … Ranked the No. 9 in-state prospect on The Clarion-Ledger’s 10 Most Wanted and also named a member of the publication’s Dandy Dozen … Led Canton to the MHSAA Class 5A state playoffs … Participated in the Bernard Blackwell All-Star Game … Coached in high school by Peter Brown.

Nick Brassell

ATH | 6-1 | 180 | East Mississippi CC | Batesville, Miss.

JUNIOR COLLEGE: Competed as a sophomore for East Mississippi Community College under the direction of head coach Buddy Stephens … Rated 4 stars and the No. 13 JUCO prospect in the nation by 247Sports.com … A 4-star JUCO recruit by ESPN.com and Rivals.com … Rated the No. 2 JUCO prospect in the state by The Clarion-Ledger … MACJC first team All-State selection … Helped EMCC to an 8-2 record and the MACJC North Division championship … Caught 48 passes for 663 yards and six touchdowns, while returning six kicks for 130 yards and six punts for 25 yards … Made four tackles with two pass deflections as a defensive back … Had 12 catches for 191 yards and a TD in the semifinal playoff game against Copiah-Lincoln … 2011 (OLE MISS): Played in 12 games with seven starts (six at WR, one at CB) … First Rebel to start on offense and defense in the same season since 1988 … Second on the team in receptions (24), receiving yards (336) and TD catches (2) … Recorded 22 receptions for 290 yards in SEC play … Finished fourth among SEC freshmen in yards per catch (14.0) … Posted 14 tackles and five PBUs at cornerback … Earned first letter … vs. BYU (9/3): Earned the starting nod at flanker in his first collegiate game … Rushed for -1 yards on two carries … vs. Southern Illinois (9/10): Caught his first career pass for 6 yards and also rushed once for a 12-yard gain … at Vanderbilt (9/17): Saw first action on defense and made one tackle, forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and broke up the first two passes thrown his way as a cornerback … vs. Georgia (9/24): Caught two passes for 52 yards and rushed for 14 yards on two carries … Returned his first career punt for an 84-yard touchdown … Also made one tackle as a cornerback … at Fresno State (10/1): Caught one pass for 40 yards and rushed for 14 yards on two carries … Also recorded two tackles and a pass breakup as a cornerback … vs. Alabama (10/15): Had a career-best game on offense and defense, catching four passes for 101 yards, including a career-long 59-yard reception that set up the only touchdown of the game for the Rebels … Also recorded five tackles (all solo) at cornerback … vs. Arkansas (10/22): Caught a career-high eight passes for 70 yards and rushed five times for 17 yards, while recording one tackle and one pass breakup on defense … at Auburn (10/29): Caught a team-high four passes for 32 yards and his first career touchdown–a 10-yard reception … Also rushed four times for 19 yards and made one tackle … at Kentucky (11/5): Made first career start on defense, recording three tackles (one solo), including 0.5 TFL on an assisted sack, and a pass breakup … Also caught three passes for 40 yards and a touchdown while rushing once for 56 yards … vs. LSU (11/19): Caught one pass for a loss of five yards, while rushing once for a loss of 11 yards … Also returned five kickoffs for 93 yards … at Mississippi State (11/26): Returned one kickoff for 18 yards and rushed for 11 yards on three carries … HIGH SCHOOL: A U.S. Army, PrepStar and SuperPrep All-America selection … Listed No. 2 on The Clarion-Ledger’s Top 10 Most Wanted list and was a member of the paper’s Dandy Dozen squad … Earned first team All-State honors from The Clarion-Ledger and was a first team Class 6A All-State pick by the Mississippi Association of Coaches as a senior … A member of the Rivals100 and rated the No. 51 player in the nation by Rivals.com … Ranked the No. 1 player in Mississippi and the No. 7 wide receiver in the nation by Rivals.com … Listed No. 24 on the Mobile Press-Register Super Southeast 120 … Rated the No. 7 wide receiver and the No. 56 overall player in the nation by Scout.com … Listed as the No. 29 wide receiver in the nation by ESPN.com … Rated the No. 1 player in Mississippi by SuperPrep … Participated in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic as a senior … Posted 52 receptions for 875 yards and 13 TDs as a senior … Recorded 62 catches for 1,272 yards and 16 TDs as a junior … Won Class 6A state title as a senior and helped squad to Rivals.com High School National Championship as the No. 1 ranked team in the nation … Claimed three state titles in high school … Coached in high school by Lance Pogue.

Eugene Brazley

RB | 5-10 | 180 | G.W. Carver HS | New Orleans, La.

HIGH SCHOOL: Listed as a 4-star recruit, the No. 38 running back in the nation and No. 20 prospect from Louisiana by ESPN.com … Rated the No. 26 running back in the nation and No. 13 prospect from Louisiana by 247Sports.com … Rated the No. 14 all-purpose back in the country by Rivals.com … Tom Lemming lists him as the 10th-best wingback in the nation … Listed No. 31 on the Times-Picayune’s Nifty 50 … All-State honorable mention by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association … Also received All-District 9-2A and All-New Orleans Area small school honors … Rushed for 1,040 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior, while also making 18 catches for 279 yards and three TDs … Led G.W. Carver to the LHSAA Class 2A state quarterfinals … As a junior, rushed for 487 yards and six TDs and caught 13 passes for 149 yards … Had 342 rushing yards and four TDs as a sophomore and 466 yards and five TDs as a freshman … Coached in high school by Bryon Addison.

Ryan Buchanan

QB | 6-4 | 205 | Jackson Prep | Jackson, Miss.

HIGH SCHOOL: A SuperPrep All-America selection … Listed as a 4-star recruit by ESPN.com, Scout.com and Rivals.com … Rated the No. 15 pocket passer in the nation and third-best player in Mississippi by ESPN.com … Rated the No. 19 pro-style QB by Rivals.com and the No. 32 QB in the country by Scout.com … A member of the ESPN 300, ranking No. 193 overall … Rated the No. 3 player in Mississippi by Scout.com and No. 5 by Rivals.com … Listed No. 6 on The Clarion-Ledger’s 10 Most Wanted and a member of the publication’s Dandy Dozen … All-State first team pick by the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools and second team by The Clarion-Ledger as a senior … Passed for 1,468 yards and 22 touchdowns while leading Jackson Prep to the MAIS-AAA Division 1 state championship … Participated in the MAIS All-Star Game … Led Prep to a state runner-up finish as a junior, passing for 1,326 yards and 14 TDs and rushing for 433 yards in his first season as the starting QB … Also played basketball … Coached in high school by Ricky Black.

Tony Conner

S | 6-2 | 205 | South Panola HS | Batesville, Miss.

HIGH SCHOOL: An Under Armour and SuperPrep All-America selection … Rated a 5-star prospect by Scout.com and 247Sports.com … Listed as the No. 2 safety in the nation by Tom Lemming, 247Sports.com and ESPN.com … Rated the top prospect in Mississippi by Scout.com and ESPN.com … Rated the No. 24 overall recruit in the nation by MaxPreps and ESPN.com, No. 25 by 247Sports.com and No. 31 by Scout.com … Listed No. 2 on The Clarion-Ledger’s 10 Most Wanted and a member of the publication’s Dandy Dozen … Helped South Panola to three Class 6A state championships in his four years as a starter … Named Mississippi’s Mr. Football and first team All-State by The Clarion-Ledger as a senior … Named Class 6A Defensive Player of the Year by the Mississippi Association of Coaches … Recorded 74 tackles with three interceptions and 19 passes defended to lead the Tigers to a state title as a senior … Had seven tackles, two TFLs and a pass breakup in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game … Three-time Mississippi Association of Coaches All-State honoree, including as a running back his junior season when he rushed for 1,472 yards and 22 touchdowns … Posted 23 tackles and two interceptions as a junior … Coached in high school by Lance Pogue.

Mark Dodson

RB | 5-10 | 193 | Whitehaven HS | Memphis, Tenn.

HIGH SCHOOL: 2012 Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year … Led Whitehaven to a 15-0 record and the 2012 Tennessee 6A state title a year after finishing runner-up … Rated a 4-star recruit by all of the major scouting services … Ranked the nation’s No. 5 all-purpose back and No. 149 overall prospect by Rivals.com … Ranked the No. 13 RB in the country by Tom Lemming, No. 22 by 247Sports.com, No. 26 by ESPN.com and No. 35 by Scout.com … Rated the No. 5 player in Tennessee by Rivals.com, No. 7 by ESPN.com and No. 8 by 247Sports.com … A first team Class 6A All-State selection by the Tennessee Sports Writers Association as a senior … District 16-AAA Player of the Year … Rushed for 3,295 yards and 37 touchdowns as a senior … Ran for 318 yards and five TDs in the state championship game against Maryville, scoring the 2-point conversion that won the game in overtime … Finished his prep career as the all-time leading rusher in Shelby County history with nearly 7,000 yards … Played in the City of Memphis All-Star Game … Rushed for 2,100 yards on 110 carries with 28 TDs as a junior en route to TSWA 6A All-State honors … Finalist for the 2011 Tennessee Mr. Football Class AAA Back award … Rushed for 1,500 yards and 22 TDs as a sophomore … Coached in high school by Rodney Saulsberry.

Evan Engram

TE | 6-3 | 210 | Hillgrove HS | Powder Springs, Ga.

HIGH SCHOOL: Listed as a 3-star recruit and the No. 22 tight end in the nation by Scout.com … Rated the No. 27 TE in the country by ESPN.com … Named first team All-State as a senior by the Georgia Sportswriters Association and the Associated Press … All-State honorable mention by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution … Hauled in 40 catches for 975 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior … Caught 18 passes for 300 yards and four touchdowns as a junior, helping Hillgrove go 11-1 and advance to the second round of the state playoffs … Caught two touchdowns in the Cobb County All-Star Senior Bowl … Coached in high school by Phillip Ironside.

Austin Golson

OL | 6-6 | 290 | Prattville HS | Prattville, Ala.

HIGH SCHOOL: A U.S. Army and SuperPrep All-America selection … Tabbed a 4-star prospect by all the major recruiting services … Rated the 52nd-best prospect in the nation and No. 3 offensive tackle by ESPN.com … Ranked No. 118 overall and the eighth-best OT by Rivals.com … Ranked the No. 4 recruit in Alabama by ESPN.com and No. 8 by Rivals.com and 247Sports.com … Rated No. 10 on AL.com’s A-List of top senior football players in Alabama … Played in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game … Nominated for the AHSAA Class 6A Lineman of the Year award … Two-time Class 6A All-State first teamer by the Alabama Sports Writers Association … Helped Prattville claim the Class 6A state title his junior season, paving the way for an offense that racked up 3,458 rushing yards and 50 touchdowns … Coached in high school by Chad Anderson.

Bobby Hill

DB | 6-0 | 165 | Colquitt County HS | Moultrie, Ga.

HIGH SCHOOL: Rated a 3-star recruit and the No. 93 cornerback in the country by Scout.com … Named a second team All-State pick as a wide receiver by the Georgia Sportswriters Association and Associated Press as a senior … Led Colquitt County to the semifinals of the 2012 Class 6A state playoffs while making 78 catches for 1,046 yards and six touchdowns … Led Colquitt County to the semifinals as a junior, as well, racking up 40 catches for 880 yards and eight TDs … Coached in high school by Rush Propst.

Lavon Hooks

DT | 6-4 | 290 | Northeast Mississippi CC | Atlanta, Ga.

JUNIOR COLLEGE: Played two seasons at Northeast Mississippi Community College under head coach Ricky Smither … NJCAA Honorable Mention All-American as a sophomore … Among all JUCO prospects in the nation, rated No. 1 by 247Sports.com, No. 11 by Scout.com and No. 15 by ESPN.com … Tabbed the nation’s No. 1 defensive tackle by JCGridiron.com … Rated the No. 1 JUCO prospect in the state by The Clarion-Ledger … Selected first team All-State and All-Region XXIII and the state’s Most Valuable Defensive Lineman by the MACJC … Tied for second in the state and region with 9.5 sacks and ranked second among all JUCO players in the nation with 20.5 tackles for loss … Tallied 51 total tackles and had three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries … Recorded 30 tackles, 3.0 sacks and 3.5 TFLs as a freshman … Also played basketball at Northeast, leading the conference in rebounding as a freshman … Spent his first semester of junior college playing basketball for Marion Military Institute (Marion, Ala.) … HIGH SCHOOL: Graduated from Meadowbrook High School in Norcross, Ga., playing football and basketball there … Averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds for the hoops team as a senior … Participated in football and basketball at Brookwood High School (Snellville, Ga.) in ninth and 10th grades.

A.J. Jackson

TE | 6-6 | 240 | Lovejoy HS | Hampton, Ga.

HIGH SCHOOL: Selected as a Semper Fidelis All-American … Rated the nation’s 15th-best tight end by Tom Lemming, 16th by 247Sports.com, 22nd by Rivals.com and 23rd by Scout.com … A consensus 3-star prospect … Listed the No. 33 prospect in Georgia by 247Sports.com, No. 38 by the Macon Telegraph and No. 39 by Rivals.com … Member of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Super 75 … Named a second team All-State tight end by the Georgia Sportswriters Association and Associated Press … An All-Region 2-6A first team pick at wide receiver … Led Lovejoy to the Georgia Class 6A state championship game as a junior and senior … Caught 16 passes for 151 yards and four touchdowns as a junior … Also served as Lovejoy’s long snapper … Played in the 2011 AT&T Georgia Junior Bowl … Coached in high school by Al Hughes.

Davion Johnson

OL | 6-4 | 315 | Byhalia HS | Byhalia, Miss.

HIGH SCHOOL: Rated a 3-star prospect by all the major recruiting services and the No. 39 offensive tackle in the country by Scout.com … Listed as the No. 68 offensive guard in the nation by 247Sports.com and the No. 84 offensive tackle by ESPN.com … Scout.com ranks him the seventh-best player in Mississippi, while ESPN.com has him 12th and Rivals.com 13th … Listed among the top 40 recruits in the state by The Clarion-Ledger and a member of the publication’s Dandy Dozen … Led Byhalia to the MHSAA Class 3A state quarterfinals … Played in the Bernard Blackwell All-Star Game … Coached in high school by John Danley.

Derrick Jones

WR | 6-2 | 185 | Eupora HS | Eupora, Miss.

HIGH SCHOOL: Tabbed a 3-star prospect by all the major recruiting services … Rated the 61st-best wide receiver in the country by Rivals.com and No. 89 by Scout.com … Listed as the ninth-best recruit in Mississippi by Scout.com and ESPN.com … Listed among the top 40 recruits in the state by The Clarion-Ledger … Caught a 41-yard touchdown pass in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game … Named a first team All-State receiver by The Clarion-Ledger and the Mississippi Association of Coaches … Caught 44 passes for 975 yards and 15 touchdowns to help Eupora reach the Class 2A state title game … Also had 39 tackles and six interceptions on defense … All-District selection in football and basketball … Coached in high school by Junior Graham.

David Kamara

CB | 5-10 | 185 | Grayson HS | Loganville, Ga.

HIGH SCHOOL: Selected as a Semper Fidelis All-American … Rated the No. 70 cornerback in the nation by Rivals.com and No. 85 by ESPN.com … A 3-star recruit according to Rivals.com, Scout.com and ESPN.com … Named to the Gwinnett Daily Post All-County third team as a senior after helping Grayson win the Region 8-6A championship … Helped Grayson win the Class 5A state title and compile a 15-0 record en route to a No. 4 ranking by USA Today his junior season when he posted 59 tackles and four interceptions … Coached in high school by Mickey Conn … High school teammate of Rebel All-SEC linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche and fellow Ole Miss signee Robert Nkemdiche

Devante Kincade

QB | 6-1 | 185 | Skyline HS | Dallas, Texas

HIGH SCHOOL: Rated a 4-star recruit by ESPN.com and Scout.com … Listed as the 12th-best dual-threat quarterback in the nation by ESPN.com and No. 18 by 247Sports.com … Scout.com ranks him as the 26th-best QB overall … Tom Lemming has him as the No. 19 combo QB … Ranked the No. 38 prospect in Texas by ESPN.com … A member of the ESPN 300 … MVP of the 2012 Dallas Elite 11 regional camp and one of 25 finalists for the national Elite 11 camp … The District 9-5A MVP and an All-State honorable mention pick by the Associated Press as a senior … Completed 178-of-281 passes for 2,856 yards, 38 touchdowns and eight interceptions, while rushing for 861 yards and 12 TDs during his final prep campaign … Was a second team All-State pick as a junior when he led Skyline to the Class 5A state semifinals and passed for 3,270 yards, 37 TDs and eight picks while rushing for 857 yards and 17 scores … Passed for 1,627 yards with 17 TDs and seven picks as a sophomore … Coached in high school by Reginald Samples.

Quadarias Mireles

ATH | 5-11 | 185 | Hinds CC | Delray Beach, Fla.

JUNIOR COLLEGE: Played two seasons at Hinds Community College under head coach Gene Murphy … Rated the No. 8 JUCO prospect in the nation by ESPN.com … Rated a 4-star JUCO prospect by ESPN.com and 3-star by Scout.com, Rivals.com and 247Sports.com … Two-time MACJC All-State selection … As a sophomore, led Hinds in receptions (38), kickoff returns (11) and kickoff return yards (204) en route to 828 all-purpose yards … Rushed the ball 47 times for 259 yards and two TDs and added 365 receiving yards and two receiving TDs … As a freshman, hauled in 45 catches for 703 yards and had 10 rushes for 110 yards … HIGH SCHOOL: Rated the No. 85 WR in the nation by Scout.com … Ranked the No. 94 WR in the country by ESPN.com … Caught 26 passes for 426 yards and four TDs as a senior … Also ran for 172 yards and one TD … Caught 17 passes for 341 yards and two TDs as a junior … Coached in high school by Andre Thaddeus.

Herbert Moore

DT | 6-2 | 330 | Memphis East | Memphis, Tenn.

HIGH SCHOOL: Listed as the nation’s 56th-best defensive tackle by Rivals.com and 59th by ESPN.com … A consensus 3-star recruit … Rated the No. 16 prospect in Tennessee by Rivals.com and No. 17 by ESPN.com … Selected to play for Team USA Football at the 2012 IFAF Under-19 World Championship … Played in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl All-Star Game and the City of Memphis All-Star Game following his senior year … Named All-District 16-AAA first team … Recorded 54 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, four sacks, four fumble recoveries and one defensive touchdown as a senior … Had 46 tackles and eight sacks as a junior … Coached in high school by Marcus Wimberly.

Kailo Moore

RB | 5-10 | 190 | West Bolivar HS | Rosedale, Miss.

HIGH SCHOOL: Selected as a Semper Fidelis and SuperPrep All-American … Rated a 4-star prospect by all the major recruiting services … Listed as the sixth-best all-purpose back and No. 93 overall recruit in the nation by 247Sports.com … Listed as the No. 10 running back in the country by Tom Lemming and No. 19 by Scout.com and ESPN.com … Member of the Scout 300 and ESPN 300 … Played in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game … Listed No. 4 on The Clarion-Ledger’s 10 Most Wanted and a member of the publication’s Dandy Dozen … Earned first team All-State honors from The Clarion-Ledger and the Mississippi Association of Coaches as both a junior and senior … Rushed for 1,218 yards and scored 18 touchdowns while leading West Bolivar to the quarterfinals of the Class 2A state playoffs as a senior … Also had three interceptions on defense … As a junior, rushed for 1,470 yards and 19 TDs, leading the Eagles to a 15-1 record and the MHSAA Class 2A state championship … Set a school record with five TDs in one game … Coached in high school by Henry Johnson … Also a standout sprinter on the track, he was named Mississippi’s Mr. Track and Field by The Clarion-Ledger as a junior … Competed in the 100 meters and 200 meters at the 2011 USA Junior Outdoor Track & Field Championships … Eleven-time state 2A champion during his high school track career … Won the state 2A 100-meter dash three times and the 200 twice, including as an eighth grader … Best times of 10.30 in the 100 and 21.22 in the 200.

Christian Morgan

TE | 6-4 | 255 | Prestonwood Christian Academy | Plano, Texas

HIGH SCHOOL: A 4-star prospect and the No. 11 TE in the nation according to Scout.com … Ranked the No. 12 TE in the nation by Tom Lemming, No. 16 by Rivals.com and No. 24 by 247Sports.com … Ranked the No. 12 TE-Y by ESPN.com … Rivals.com lists him as the No. 55 player in the state of Texas … A converted offensive lineman known primarily for his blocking ability, but still caught 31 passes for 497 yards and five TDs as a senior … Had 16 catches for 226 yards as a junior … Coached in high school by Chris Cunningham.

Robert Nkemdiche

DE | 6-5 | 270 | Grayson HS | Loganville, Ga.

HIGH SCHOOL: The consensus No. 1 overall recruit and top defensive end in the nation … An Under Armour, USA Today, MaxPreps and SuperPrep All-America selection as a senior … Also earned All-America honors from USA Today as a junior … Three-time All-State selection by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Associated Press and Georgia Athletic Coaches Association … Racked up 41 career sacks during his high school career … Named the Gwinnett Daily Post County Defensive Player of the Year as a senior after recording 59 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks to help Grayson win the Region 8-6A championship … Led a defense that allowed only 11 points a game … Also rushed for 235 yards and 10 touchdowns on offense … Tabbed the All-Class Player of the Year (AJC, Associated Press), Gwinnett Daily Post County Defensive Player of the Year and Touchdown Club of Gwinnett Athlete of the Year after his junior season in which he led Grayson to a 15-0 record, Class 5A state title and a No. 4 national ranking by USA Today … Posted 59 tackles and 18 sacks as a junior, while rushing for 528 yards and 17 touchdowns … Played in the AT&T Georgia Junior Bowl … Younger brother of the Rebels’ All-SEC linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche … High school teammate of fellow Ole Miss signee David Kamara … Coached in high school by Mickey Conn.

Andy Pappanastos

K | 5-11 | 180 | Trinity Presbyterian | Montgomery, Ala.

HIGH SCHOOL: Named an All-American by Kohl’s Kicking and MaxPreps U.S. Air Force … Three-time Class 3A All-State selection … Set the Alabama high school career record for field goals made with 48, which was two shy of the national record … His 279 career kicking points scored are third all-time in Alabama high school history … Named All-Metro 1A-4A Player of the Year by the Montgomery Advertiser … Named the Montgomery QB Club Private School Player of the Year … Four-year starting kicker and three-year starting safety for Trinity … A two-year starter and first team All-Metro pick in soccer … Coached in high school by Randy Ragsdale.

Marcus Robinson

LB | 6-4 | 210 | Memphis East HS | Memphis, Tenn.

HIGH SCHOOL: Ranked the No. 26 inside linebacker in the country by Rivals.com and the No. 36 outside linebacker by Scout.com … A consensus 3-star recruit … Listed as the No. 13 player in Tennessee by Rivals.com, No. 18 by 247Sports.com and No. 19 by ESPN.com … Named a Class 5A All-State first team LB by the Tennessee Sports Writers Association as a senior … Played in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl All-Star Game and the City of Memphis All-Star Game following his senior year … Named All-District 16-AAA first team … Recorded 84 tackles and two interceptions on defense and 12 catches for 234 yards and three touchdowns on offense as a senior … Had 92 tackles, 13 TFLs, four forced fumbles and an interception as a junior … Invited to the 2012 Nike football combine “The Opening” … Also played basketball … Coached in high school by Marcus Wimberly.

Ray Ray Smith

LB | 6-3 | 210 | Florence HS | Florence, Ala.

HIGH SCHOOL: Listed as a 3-star prospect by all the major recruiting services and the No. 72 outside linebacker in the country by ESPN.com … Rated the 20th-best player in Alabama by Rivals.com and 24th by ESPN.com … Played in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game … Named a first team Class 4A-6A All-State linebacker by the Times Daily and Class 6A honorable mention by the Alabama Sports Writers Association … Made 88 tackles with 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks as a senior … Led Florence to the AHSAA Class 6A state playoffs … Also played basketball and competed in the javelin and high jump in track … Coached in high school by Jamey DuBose.

Laquon Treadwell

WR | 6-3 | 198 | Crete-Monee HS | Crete, Ill.

HIGH SCHOOL: An Under Armour, USA Today, MaxPreps and SuperPrep All-America selection … Rated a 5-star recruit by Rivals.com, Scout.com, 247Sports.com and MaxPreps and the nation’s No. 1 wide receiver by Tom Lemming, Rivals.com and ESPN.com … Listed as the No. 5 overall recruit in the nation by Rivals.com, No. 6 by MaxPreps, No. 19 by ESPN.com, No. 28 by 247Sports.com and No. 30 by Scout.com … Regarded as Illinois’ top football recruit in 2013 … Had six catches for 46 yards in the Under Armour All-America Game … One of 16 final candidates for the 2013 U.S. Army Player of the Year … Named the Chicago Tribune Player of the Year, NWI Times Offensive Player of the Year and All-State first team as a senior … Led Crete-Monee to the Class 6A state title and hauled in 81 catches for 1,424 yards and 16 touchdowns, while rushing for 257 yards and seven more TDs on the ground … Also had 56 tackles and six interceptions on defense … Named the NWI Times Offensive Player of the Year, Southland Conference Offensive Player of the Year and a first team All-State pick as a junior when he recorded 75 catches for 1,391 yards and 18 touchdowns … Also had 45 tackles, 10 TFLS and eight sacks on defense as a junior … A three-time All-Area selection … Had 58 catches for 811 yards and seven TDs as a sophomore … High school teammate of current Ole Miss defensive back Anthony Standifer … Coached in high school by Jerry Verde.

Laremy Tunsil

OL | 6-6 | 320 | Columbia HS | Lake City, Fla.

HIGH SCHOOL: A U.S. Army, USA Today, MaxPreps and SuperPrep All-America selection … A consensus 5-star recruit and No. 1-rated offensive tackle in the nation by all the major recruiting services … Rated the nation’s No. 3 overall recruit by 247Sports.com, No. 5 by ESPN.com, No. 7 by Scout.com and MaxPreps and No. 14 by Rivals.com … Listed as Florida’s top recruit by 247Sports.com and second-best by Rivals.com … Ranked No. 5 on the Orlando Sentinel’s Florida Top 100 and No. 1 on the paper’s North Florida Super60 … Florida Dairy Farmers Class 6A Player of the Year … First team Class 6A All-State pick by the Associated Press … Helped Columbia run for 275 yards per game en route to the Class 6A state quarterfinals … Associated Press All-State first team selection as a junior, as well … Coached in high school by Brian Allen.

Jordan Wilkins

RB | 6-1 | 210 | St. Benedict at Auburndale HS | Cordova, Tenn.

HIGH SCHOOL: A SuperPrep All-America selection … A consensus 4-star prospect by all the major recruiting services … Rated the No. 9 all-purpose back in the nation by 247Sports.com and the nation’s No. 10 big back by Tom Lemming … Listed as the 20th-best running back by Rivals.com and 21st by ESPN.com … A member of the ESPN 300 … Three-time Division 2-AA All-State selection by the Tennessee Sports Writers Association … Rushed for 1,041 yards and 14 touchdowns in just seven games as a senior before suffering a season-ending knee injury … An honorary selection to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl All-Star Game and City of Memphis All-Star Game … Rushed for 1,546 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior and was one of three finalists for the Division 2-AA Back of the Year … Also played basketball … Younger brother of Vanderbilt wide receiver Trey Wilkins … Coached in high school by Michael Davidson.

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Texas LB calls Baylor ‘trash,’ says ‘they still suck to me’

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Other than Tyrone Swoopes‘ struggles, there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot of news coming out of Charlie Strong’s first spring game at Texas.

Well, that and a Longhorn giving a conference rival some serious bulletin board material.

Following the spring game, Steve Edmond was one of several UT players to make an appearance in front of the media.  When asked about how Strong can improve the Longhorns’ fortunes from the last couple of years, the linebacker decided to go off on a tangent and aim some rather sharp words directly at the reigning Big 12 champs, Baylor.

“We could have won the conference. Even though I didn’t get a chance to play in the Baylor game, I really feel like we should have beat Baylor. I really don’t like Baylor. I still think they’re trash. …

“I’m mad as I can be. I knew we were a better team than they were. And then … Baylor gets the win and acts like they had never won before. Even in high school, you know how to react when you win a game. It’s not like you never won a game.

“I’m like, ‘They won it, so what?’ They still suck to me.”

Thanks to Oklahoma State’s upset loss to Oklahoma earlier in the day, the Texas-Baylor game Dec. 7 turned into a de facto Big 12 championship game. After playing to a 3-3 tie through the first two quarters of play, the Bears outscored the Longhorns 27-7 the rest of the way to claim the conference title and its first-ever spot in a BCS bowl.

In fact, Baylor has come out on top of Texas in three of the last four meetings, with the only loss in that span coming by six points in Austin in 2012. Perhaps that’s why Edmonds, who missed last year’s loss due to a lacerated liver, reiterated his stance with an “I don’t like Baylor” to conclude his remarks.

Regardless, current and former members of the Baylor football program had a chuckle at Edmond’s bombast.

Oh, and for those wondering, Baylor and Texas will next meet again Oct. 4 in Austin.  Go ahead and grab yourselves some popcorn now as that one’s going to be some fun.

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Potential secondary starter for UK out up to four months with sports hernia

Alabama v Kentucky Getty Images

The good news is a potential starter for Kentucky on the defensive side of the ball will be laid up for quite a bit of time.  The good news?  It shouldn’t impact the player’s availability for the start of the upcoming season.

According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, cornerback Nate Willis will be sidelined for the next 3-4 months after undergoing surgery in the near future for a sports hernia.  Such a timeline would have Willis out of action no longer than the middle of August, which means the defensive back could be sidelined for the beginning of the Wildcats’ second summer camp under head coach Mark Stoops.

“It’s always hard when you have an injury and you’ve got to be out, because you miss all those reps,” defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said according to the Herald-Leader. “That frustration sets in, but you’ve always got to look at things on a positive note. He knows that he’ll be back in time for the season, so he just has got to get the mental reps until then, and then when he comes back, he’s just got to be clicking on all cylinders.”

Willis, who transferred to UK from the JUCO ranks, started seven of the first nine games last year before suffering a season-ending knee injury.  Despite the missed playing time, Willis still led the team with five pass breakups.

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Tide tops in spring game attendance despite lowest turnout of Saban era

Alabama Spring Game Getty Images

Only at football-mad Alabama could being tops at something nationally also, at the same time, result in a low-water mark for the current era.

Such was the case Saturday afternoon as a total of 73,506 fans took in their Crimson Tide’s annual A-Day spring game.  That total topped the previous 2014 high-water mark of just over 72,000 for Penn State’s first spring game under James Franklin last weekend.

It also bested Iron Bowl rival Auburn, coming off an appearance in the BCS title game, and its 70,465 fans this same day, although weather in that part of the state may have played a role in those numbers.

It’s highly (highly) (highly) likely the Tide’s total from this Saturday will finish out the spring campaign as the most at the FBS level in 2014; of the remaining spring games, only those at Michigan State and UCLA could even remotely hope to surpass that total — and even that’s simply wishful thinking on anyone’s part.

Despite adding a “Spring Game Attendance High” notch in the belt to go along with yet another recruiting title this year, the turnout for Saturday’s A-Day game was the lowest since Nick Saban took over in Tuscaloosa.  In fact, it was the lowest since the 78,200 showed up during Saban’s second spring.

Of course, there’s not really any reason (at all) to fret over spring attendance as the Tide has blown past the 90,000-mark three times –2011 (92,310), 2007 (92,138), 2010 (91,312) — and the 80,000-mark once — 2009 (84,050) — during Saban’s eight years heading the football program.

More to the point, the eight most-attended spring games in the school’s history have come under Saban; prior to Saban’s arrival, the record amount of fans who took in a spring game was 51,117 (1988), or more than 20,000 fewer than the low-tide attendance Saturday.

Yeah, again, no need to fret for those who were even remotely inclined.

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Confident Nick Marshall dazzles as Auburn exits spring

Nick Marhall, Montravius Adams AP

It’s impossible for a player to win a Heisman based on his spring-game performance, just as, barring injury, it’s impossible for someone to lose it.  What a solid-to-spectacular performance — especially when it’s televised — can do is show the level of progress made from the previous year… and put that player on the minds of those with a stiff-armed lean during the dog days of the offseason.

Based on that assumption — howdy, Coach Saban! — you can very well expect rave reviews and upbeat predictions for the upcoming season to be rolling in for Nick Marshall.

During Auburn’s spring game Saturday, the Tigers quarterback led the first-team offense on seven possessions… and put points on the board at the end of every single one of them.  Included in that very efficient and proficient performance were four touchdown passes from Marshall to three different receivers.  Additionally, all of that scoring came in the first half as Marshall didn’t see the field for the last two quarters.

One of the few negatives to take out of Marshall’s day was the fact that he completed 59 percent of his passes; offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee has set a standard of a 65-percent completion percentage for Marshall.  Other than that, though, Marshall’s head coach came out of the day pleased with the triggerman of his offense as he grows both as a quarterback and as a leader.

“He’s more of a leader by example,” Gus Malzahn said of the second-year starter. “He doesn’t say a lot, but when he does, his teammates listen. …

“Our emphasis was obviously throwing the football. It was good to see our guys throwing and catching the ball in front of a crowd.”

For his part, Marshall had ominous words for what opposing defenses can expect from an offense that was run-centric in 2013 but could be adding a potent dimension for 2014.

We’re going to be a scary sight this year,” the quarterback said. “We can get real scary. We know we can run the ball. We’re just focusing on throwing the ball down the field. That’s the emphasis this year.”

In Marshall’s first year as a starter at this level of football, the Georgia transfer, by way of the JUCO ranks, played a significant role in leading the Tigers on a magical ride to the BCS title game following the 2013 season.  In two of AU’s biggest games of the season — the Kick-Six win over Alabama in the regular-season finale and the SEC championship game win over Missouri that propelled AU to its date with Florida State — Marshall completed just over 74 percent of his passes for three touchdowns and, most importantly, zero interceptions.  Not only that, but Marshall rushed for 200 yards and a pair of scores for good measure in those huge wins.

Of course, Marshall then proceeded to put up arguably his worst performance of the year against the best defense he faced, barely completing 50 percent of his passes and throwing a pick in what was still just a three-point loss to the Seminoles.

Coming off that inaugural starting campaign, AU coaches have done nothing but privately rave about the work Marshall has put in to improve himself this offseason.

Yes, it’s the spring and, yes, the spring game specifically is nothing more than a glorified scrimmage with fans in attendance.  Marshall has shown the desire to improve as a player, and those results showed themselves this afternoon.  How that all plays out when the real footballs start flying in a handful of months, though, remains to be seen.

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Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon takes home third straight A-Day MVP

TJ Yeldon, Landon Collins

Back in the day, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner derisively referred to his high-priced slugger, Dave Winfield, as “Mr. May.”  With no Steinbrenner-like derisiveness intended, T.J. Yeldon has taken the “Mr. April” mantle and literally run away with it.

As Alabama concluded Spring Practice 2014 Saturday with its annual A-Day spring game, Yeldon was named as the game’s MVP despite his Crimson team falling to the White squad 17-13.  Remarkably, it’s the third time in the running back’s three years with the Tide that he’s claimed those spring honors.

The true junior led all Tide backs with 95 yards on just 11 carries.  Yeldon had one of the three touchdowns the Tide offense was able to muster on the day as well, the other being touchdown passes from Blake Sims, the frontrunner (for now) to replace AJ McCarron, and Cooper Bateman.

Speaking of the quarterback situation, nothing was decided on that front — that battle will continue in earnest when Florida State transfer Jacob Coker gets to town — although there could’ve been a bit of concern this afternoon for a coach as averse to turnovers as Nick Saban.  All told, five Tide quarterbacks combined to toss four interceptions on the day.

Despite the turnovers and all-around lack of scoring in what was the first real public debut of new coordinator Lane Kiffin‘s offense, Saban, as expected, didn’t seem the least bit concerned.  Well, kind of.

After beginning his postgame remarks by stating that, from a coach’s perspective, “[n]obody ever has a bad spring game,” Saban did allow that the offense wasn’t quite where he thought it should be.

“I didn’t think the consistency on offense was what I would’ve liked for it to have been today,” Saban said in quotes distributed by the team. “We did make some plays, but there wasn’t the consistency that you would like to see in the offense.”

Seeing as the Tide is transitioning not only from a three-year starter at the quarterback position to a new coordinator, it’s not surprising that the consistency isn’t where Saban would like it.  Getting that consistency will be tested even further when Coker, who some or even most observers expect to be under center when the Tide opens the 2014 season, enters the fray when summer camp opens in early August and further dilutes the reps.

Regardless of how it ultimately turns out, it’s going to be absolutely fascinating to watch how the Tide gets to Saban’s optimum level of consistency at the position and moves on post-McCarron.

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Key recruiter leaving the Hawkeyes

Eric Johnson

A week ahead of its spring game, the Iowa football program has taken a rather significant hit on the recruiting front.

The Hawkeyes announced in a press release Saturday that assistant coach Eric Johnson has decided to leave Kirk Ferentz‘s coaching staff.  The state reason is that Johnson wants to pursue an unnamed career opportunity outside of football.

Johnson was a part of Ferentz’s first Iowa staff as a grad assistant.

“I know Eric and his family have given this decision great attention and thought, and we all wish them the best as they move forward,” said Ferentz in a statement.  “Eric has been a valued staff member since he joined our original staff in 1999 and has made many contributions to our program and team as a coach, recruiter and mentor.  I am very appreciative of Eric’s efforts and his commitment to Iowa and wish him all the best in the future.”

Johnson has served as assistant defensive line coach (2012-13), tight ends coach (2010-11; 2003-07) and assistant linebackers coach (2008-2009) during his decade-plus career with the Hawkeyes, but it was on the recruiting trail where Johnson made his biggest mark and where his departure will hit the program the hardest.  From the release on Johnson, who had spent the past 10 seasons as the Hawkeyes’ recruiting coordinator:

Johnson has been heavily involved in Iowa’s recruiting efforts since joining the Hawkeye staff. Iowa’s 2006 recruiting class was ranked extremely high by all the recruiting experts. Iowa’s 2005 recruiting class was ranked among the top 10 in the nation by all of the top recruiting services, while Iowa’s classes in 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2009 were all ranked in the nation’s top 25. Sporting News ranked Iowa’s 2011 recruiting class second best among Big Ten programs and the 2012 class was ranked third among league programs.

Johnson ranked as one of the top ten recruiting coordinators in the country by Tom Lemming in 2001 and was named one of the Top Ten Recruiters in the Big Ten Conference by Rivals.com in 2007.

“My family and I can’t thank everyone enough for our 15 years at Iowa,” said Johnson. “It has been a great time in our lives. From a family standpoint, we had a chance to raise our children in a tremendous community. From a professional standpoint, I have worked for the best person in college football.

“Coach Ferentz is the best teacher, leader, and person I have ever been around; he truly embodies the Iowa way. I have also been mentored by three great coordinators in Norm Parker, Phil Parker and Ken O’Keefe, and had the opportunity to work with one of the best people anyone can ask for in Reese Morgan.”

(Photo credit: Iowa athletics)

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Ark. St.’s ‘Coach for a Day’ claims spring game win

Nick Bhardwaj

How much does a win at the FBS level cost?  For Nick Bhardwaj, it was $11,700 of well-spent funds.

Earlier this month, Arkansas State and head coach Blake Anderson announced that it was auctioning off the opportunity for a fan to coach one of the Red Wolves’ squads in the annual spring game.  The winning bid went to Bhardwaj, who is the 25-year-old CEO of a California-based tech company.

Friday, Bhardwaj put his football mettle to the test… and came out on the winning side as his Black team dropped a 48-17 decision on the Red squad.  Bhardwaj, a release from the school stated, “gave the team’s pregame and halftime speeches and communicated with the coaching staff on headset throughout the entire game while making play-calling and fourth-down decisions.”  That decision-making came after an extensive film session with offensive coordinator Walt Bell.

Also as part of the promotion, Bhardwaj received a Powerade bath (pictured)following the lopsided win.

The truth was I was just a fan of the sport, a fan of the game, and just happy to be a part of this opportunity,” Bhardwaj, who had never been to the state of Arkansas prior to the spring game, said during a press conference. Even a day after the game, Bhardwaj was still basking in the glow of the unique experience while Anderson was praising the man with the unblemished coaching mark.

In addition to Bhardwaj, ASU had another surprise up its spring sleeves as beloved former Red Wolves head coach Larry Lacewell was on the Red team sidelines as coach.  Lacewell stills holds the school record for career wins.

“[Athletic director] Terry [Mohajir] kept this a big secret that I was going to coach because he didn’t want the crowd to get so big, or he was scared that when everybody finds out I’m going to coach again that nobody’s coming,” Lacewell said.

Well done and very classy on all fronts by Anderson and the football program.

(Photo credit: Arkansas State athletics)

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VIDEO: Navy football takes near-annual trip to White House

Navy White House 1

Navy’s trips to the White House in celebration of its gridiron success are becoming such a yearly tradition that we wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the Midshipmen had their own monogrammed towels in one of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue’s myriad bathrooms.

Friday afternoon, Navy players and coaches were honored yet again by President Barack Obama at the White House for claiming the 2013 edition of the Commander-In-Chief trophy.  It’s the ninth time in the past 11 years the Midshipmen have staked its claim to the prestigious trophy.

Navy defeated both Air Force (28-10, after it looked like the game wouldn’t be played) and bitter rival (sometimes) Army (34-7) to earn its 14th CIC honor since the trophy was first handed out in 1972.  Despite the recent run of football success, the Midshipmen still trail the Falcons’ 18 trophies.  The Black Knights, the inaugural winner of the award, are well behind both service academies with six, with the last coming in 1996.

The trophy has been shared on four different occasions: 1974, 1976, 1980 and 1986.

Navy White House 2“When you sign up to play at Annapolis, you know you’re in for a different experience,” the President said. “So, yes, it’s about learning to be a good football player, but more importantly, it’s about learning how to be a good leader and to be a good man. And that’s what these outstanding Americans are and will continue to be.”

The President also acknowledged the tragedy with which the program has been forced to deal.  Last month, running back Will McKamey passed away after falling unconscious and into a coma during a spring practice session.

“I understand your motto for this season is ‘I Will’ in memory of him. And that’s what camaraderie is all about: Honor. Courage. Commitment. That’s what makes the Midshipmen so strong,” the POTUS said. “And that’s why I’m so proud to serve as your commander-in-chief. Not primarily because of what you’ve done on the football field, but because of your dedication to each other and your service to America.”

 

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Nick Saban ‘shocked’ at Manning-Gase imbroglio

Nick Saban Peyton Manning AP

In the course of a post yesterday on Peyton Manning and Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase having their brains picked on the no-huddle offense by Nick Saban during a recent visit to Tuscaloosa, we mentioned in passing, as noted by our redheaded stepmothers over at PFT, that the confab may have been in violation of the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.

For its part, the NFL is looking into whether or not Manning and Gase violated the portion of the CBA which prohibits coaches from meeting with players prior to the start of their team’s offseason workouts (the Broncos began their offseason program Monday, after the visits took place).  For his part, Saban is stunned that an NFL issue may have arisen out of what’s sounding like an impromptu get-together, ensuring that he stressed that Manning and his coach were never in the same room discussing football during their overlapping time in Tuscaloosa.

From an interview Saban did with the Denver Post after the situation blew up:

“I’m like shocked that anybody would think someone did anything wrong on their part,” Saban said by phone Friday night. “I never met with Adam. When I talked with him I talked about his family. Peyton, we talked an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon. Adam had been talking to our assistant coaches. I never talked with Adam about football.”

Asked specifically if Manning and Gase were in a meeting at the same time, Saban said, “Only to say hello and b.s. with each other. Adam came Monday and talked to the offensive coaches and some of the defensive coaches. I know he talked with Kirby (Smart, the Crimson Tide’s defensive coordinator). He and I just visited casually. We didn’t talk football. Adam was with me through two different college programs (at Michigan State and LSU).”

Saban firmly stated that Manning and Gase did not arrive together; in fact, the coach had been then there “for a couple days” prior to the player’s arrival.

Because of Manning’s proficiency in operating the no-huddle offense, the Alabama head coach and Denver Broncos quarterbacks spent a couple of hours one day — without Gase present — going over what defenses are problematic for that type of offense.

“And Peyton,” Saban said, “we were just talking ball. We talked about particular defenses that give us trouble with the no-huddle. Things like that.”

Given how the situation exploded, Saban took the opportunity to intimate an “ass out of you and me” joke when explaining the cause of the explosion.

“I was asked about their visit at my coach’s clinic press conference but I never said we sat down together. Because we didn’t. That’s what happens when people assume.”

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Hoke: Shane Morris narrowed gap on Devin Gardner after ‘good spring’

Shane Morris, Devin Gardner AP

While Devin Gardner said “it was amazing how much better (the quarterback competition this spring) made me,” the incumbent at the position –despite his pre-spring proclamation — exited the 15 practice sessions without a firm grasp on the starting job.

How tenuous Gardner’s hold on the job was further demonstrated by head coach Brady Hoke, who stated Friday “he might” when asked if Gardner would be his starter when the 2014 regular season commenced.  Gardner and Shane Morris have been engaged in what appeared to be a  neck-and-neck battle to lead the Wolverines offense throughout the spring.

When asked about Morris, Hoke was damn-near effusive, relative to his tepid comments Morris’ competition, in his praise.

“I thought Shane had a good spring,” Hoke said according to mlive.com. “Was it flawless? No. But I think he learned more about the urgency that he has to have to be the quarterback at Michigan.

“I thought he had a good spring.”

Gardner started every game last season before a foot injury he suffered in the loss to Ohio State in the regular-season finale sidelined him for the Wolverines’ bowl game.  In his first career start, and as a true freshman no less, Morris completed 24-of-38 passes for 196 yards and interception as UM dropped a 31-14 decision to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

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UGA expects Keith Marshall, pair of WRs back for summer workouts

Tennessee v Georgia

A high-profile running back and a pair of experienced and productive wide receivers missed all or part of Georgia’s spring practice due to injury and/or rehabilitation from injury, but that shouldn’t be the case when the Bulldogs takes its next big step in preparing for the upcoming season.

According to head coach Mark Richt, running back Keith Marshall (pictured) and wide receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley are expected to be healthy enough to participate in the football program’s “voluntary” summer workouts.  Those structured workouts will commence in June.

All three of the players are coming off of torn ACLs suffered last season that forced them to miss various amounts of games.  Marshall and Scott-Wesley both incurred their knee injuries during the Tennessee game last October, while Mitchell’s knee was injured in late August.

Mitchell had been participating — in non-contact fashion — in UGA’s spring practice earlier this year before another leg injury knocked him out for the remainder of the spring.

In addition to those three, Richt said he expects tight end Jay Rome, who suffered a foot injury last year and underwent surgery in the offseason, to be at full speed for the workouts as well.

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Washington latest to unveil new uniforms for 2014

View of Mascot

Another day, another FBS program has itself some new football duds.  Hooray?

This time around, it’s the Washington football players who will wear new uniform combinations for the 2014 season.  From the release:

The new stadium and athletic facilities are filled with Husky references, echoing the team’s ethos that “no dog runs alone.” A graphic symbol and unique coded sequence embroidered into the back inside neckline of the jerseys reinforces this mantra. Representing the quickest/most agile sled dog formation, the focal point of this special graphic is the area representing the “team dogs,” who are the heart and soul of the squad. The symbol is formed by lines that, when turned sideways, make an 11 to honor the 11 players on the field. Like a sled team, the Husky football team competes as a pack through innovative formations on field.

Our players can’t wait to take the field in these new uniforms. The design tells the story of our program and provides modern innovations in materials and design while embracing the rich tradition that has made Husky football so special,” said first-year UW head coach Chris Petersen in a statement.

Below are the three uniform combinations the Huskies will wear this season as well as a video tied to the release:

Washington Uniforms

 

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BYU lands Nebraska DB transfer Harvey Jackson

Monte Ball Harvey Jackson AP

The BYU Cougars are on the receiving end of some B1G transfer help in the secondary for the 2014 season.

The football program announced in a release Thursday that defensive back Harvey Jackson has signed with the football program and will continue his playing career with the Cougars.  As Jackson has already received his degree from NU, he will be eligible to play immediately in 2014.

“Harvey is an experienced player and a mature individual with excellent character,” head coach Bronco Mendenhall said in a statement. “He will join our program after graduating in construction management with a business minor. He is a great fit for BYU on and off the field.”

Jackson played in 35 games the past three years, starting four of those contests.  He started the first three games of the 2013 season before losing that job.

In 2011, Jackson, a three-star member of the Cornhuskers’ 2010 recruiting class, was an Academic All-Big Ten selection

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Saban picks Peyton Manning’s no-huddle brain during visit

Nick Saban Peyton Manning AP

In mid-December last year, Lane Kiffin was brought to Alabama by head coach Nick Saban to help evaluate the Tide’s offense ahead of its BCS bowl matchup with Oklahoma.  Less than a month later, the former USC head coach was hired as Saban’s offensive coordinator.

While another hire likely won’t come out of another high-profile visit, Saban has again decided to pick the brain of some offensive-centric football types in his never-ending quest to improve his football program.

Saban confirmed to the media that current Denver Broncos and former Tennessee Vols quarterback Peyton Manning, along with Manning’s coordinator Adam Gase, visited Tuscaloosa for two days last week for a meeting that may have violated the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.  Saban said Manning has “been a friend and very well-respected for a long time,” and the visit came about as the player and coach were taking a football tour to select cities across the country.

Given the proliferation of no-huddle, spread offenses in the college game — and the Tide’s notorious struggles in stopping them — and Manning’s expertise in running such a system, Saban jumped at the opportunity to pick the brain of one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game.

“Since they’re a no-huddle team, we had a lot of questions for them, in terms of what gives them problems and what defensive teams do that give them problems,” Saban said. “That was a mutual benefit. I know it was a benefit to us. I hope it was a benefit to them as well.”

Saban’s attempts to decipher the no-huddle riddle from a defensive standpoint has become almost legendary; earlier this month, a football clinic hosted by Saban featured, among others, the head coach of the fast-paced, high-octane Baylor Bears, Art Briles.

“The goals that you have for next year are basically the things that you struggled with last year,” Saban said in explaining the proliferation of high-profile visitors of late. “You make a list of those things through your quality control, and then you go out and look for people who might be able to help you develop a little more expertise, a better way to teach, a better way to coach some situation.

“Sometimes we bring somebody in here to visit with us. Sometimes we have people call us and ask us if they can come and visit us and try to learn from us, which we share with quite a few people. I think we usually learn from them as well when that happens.”

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Clemson responds to group’s ‘too religious’ complaint

Dabo Swinney AP

It was reported earlier this week that a group of individuals with too much time on its hands and not nearly enough of a life had filed a formal complaint to Clemson alleging that Dabo Swinney‘s football program blurs the line between the separation of church and state as mandated in the U.S. Constitution.

An attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation stated that “the football coaching staff is doing a number of things to promote Christianity to their student-athletes” such as conducting Bible studies with their players.  A school spokesperson subsequently fired back that “no one is required to participate in any religious activities related to the football program” and that any participation is strictly voluntary.

Thursday, the university released a lengthier rebuttal to the group’s accusations, stating that “the FFRF is mistaken in its assessment” of the religious atmosphere in and around the Tigers football program.  Below is the school’s statement, in its entirety:

“We believe the practices of the football staff regarding religion are compliant with the Constitution and appropriately accommodate differing religious views. Participation in religious activities is purely voluntary, and there are no repercussions for students who decline to do so. We are not aware of any complaints from current or former student-athletes about feeling pressured or forced to participate in religious activities.

“Clemson takes very seriously its obligation to provide a comprehensive program for the development and welfare of our student-athletes ¬ which encompasses academic, athletic and personal support, including support for their spiritual needs.

“We will evaluate the complaints raised in the letter and will respond directly to the organization, but we believe FFRF is mistaken in its assessment. The Supreme Court has expressly upheld the right of public bodies to employ chaplains and has noted that the use of prayer is not in conflict with the principles of disestablishment and religious freedom.”

(Tip O’ the Cap: OrangeAndWhite.com)

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